Amia calva
Amia calva
(Bowfin)
Fishes
Native Transplant
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Amia calva Linnaeus, 1766

Common name: Bowfin

Taxonomy: available through www.itis.govITIS logo

Identification: Becker (1983); Page and Burr (1991); Jenkins and Burkhead (1994).

Size: Maximum size: 109 cm.

Native Range: Eastern North America. St. Lawrence-Great Lakes (including Georgian Bay and lakes Nipissing and Simcoe, Ontario) and Mississippi River Basin drainages from Quebec to northern Minnesota and south to the Gulf of Mexico; Atlantic and Gulf Coastal Plain from the Susquehanna River drainage in southeastern Pennsylvania to the Colorado River in Texas (Page and Burr 1991).
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Native range data for this species provided in part by NatureServe NS logo
Interactive maps: Point Distribution Maps

Nonindigenous Occurrences: Bowfin have been introduced into the Connecticut River and the Housatonic drainage, Connecticut (Behnke and Wetzel 1960; Whitworth et al. 1968; Lee et al. 1980 et seq.; Smith 1985; Schmidt 1986; Whitworth 1996); a number of localities in Illinois (Lee et al. 1980 et seq.); the Little Sioux drainage, Iowa (Lee et al. 1980 et seq.); Hughes Lake in Douglas County, Kansas (Cross and Collins 1995) and perhaps the mouth of Independence Creek in Atchison County (Pflieger 1971, 1975; Cross and Collins 1995); ponds in Scott County, and possibly the Kentucky River, Licking River, and Tygarts Creek, Kentucky (Burr and Warren 1986); ponds in western and northern Maryland and the Gunpowder River, Maryland (Pearson and Ward 1972); Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge, the Connecticut, Housatonic, and Merrimack drainages, Massachusetts (Schmidt 1986; Hartel 1992; Hartel et al. 1996; USFWS 2005); private lakes and the upper Missouri River near the Kansas border in Missouri (Pflieger 1971, 1975; Cross et al. 1986); northern New Jersey (Stiles 1978; Lee et al. 1980 et seq.); Long Island, Hudson, Twelvemile, Irondequoit-Ninemile, Delaware, Lake George, Ausable, Raquette, Winooski, Salmon-Sandy, Upper St. Lawrence, Chaumont-Perch, Indian, Oneida, Seneca, and Oswego drainages in New York (Lee et al. 1980 et seq.; Smith 1985; Schmidt 1986); the Tennessee (Lee et al. 1980 et seq.; Menhinick 1991; Jenkins and Burkhead 1994), Catawba, and upper Yadkin drainages (Lee et al. 1980 et seq.) in North Carolina; Black Moshannon Lake in Centre County, Glendale Lake in Cambria County, the Susquehanna River (Denoncourt et al. 1975a; Cooper 1983), and Somerset Lake in the Youghiogheny drainage (Hendricks et al. 1979) in Pennsylvania; the New and upper Roanoke drainages, Virginia (Lee et al. 1980 et seq.; Hocutt et al. 1986; Jenkins and Burkhead 1994); the South Branch Potomac, West Virginia (Jenkins and Burkhead 1994); and the Lake Michigan drainage including the Fox and Wolf rivers and Green Bay, Wisconsin (Becker 1983). Cross et al. (1986) listed this species as introduced into the Chariton-Nishnabotna and the Kansas drainages; however, these drainages occur in more than one state and they did not indicate states of occurrence.

Means of Introduction: Past Bowfin introductions have been attributed mainly to intentional stockings in ponds, lakes, and rivers (Jenkins and Burkhead 1994). Jenkins and Burkhead (1994) provided detailed background information on Bowfin introductions into Virginia and several other eastern states. They reported that Bowfin stocking was apparently popular 20-40 years ago. The Pennsylvania Fish Commission stocked Bowfin in two lakes mentioned above (Denoncourt et al. 1975a). Bowfin were introduced to the Gunpowder River in Maryland in 1971 when stocked ponds overflowed (Pearson and Ward 1972). They were also intentionally stocked in ponds in northern and western Maryland in the 1960s (Pearson and Ward 1972). Many of the original introductions into Connecticut were illegal stockings and were eradicated (Whitworth 1996). The Kansas report is of a single fish stocked accidentally into a fee-fishing pond with other fishes taken from Minnesota or northwestern Iowa (Cross and Collins 1995). In Wisconsin, Bowfin may have been stocked as part of the fish rescue operations from the Mississippi River backwaters in the 1930s, and/or it may have gained access to the Lake Michigan drainage via the Wisconsin-Fox Canal (Becker 1983). Bowfin have been intentionally stocked in private lakes in Missouri and records from the Missouri River in this state may be the result of escapes from these lakes (Pflieger 1971, 1975).

Status: This species has been introduced into or reported in Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin; it is probably established in most areas of the states into which it has been introduced. Not established in Kansas; the report is of a single fish.

Impact of Introduction: Unknown.

Remarks: Burr and Warren (1986) reported that Kentucky records of this species from east of the Green River represent waif and/or probable introductions. Pflieger (1978) reported that Missouri River records resulted from Bowfin escapes from privately stocked lakes; however, Burgess and Gilbert (in Lee et al. 1980 et seq.) viewed these records as representing natural occurrences. Although Bowfin are voracious, piscivorous predators, they will consume virtually any animal small enough to eat (Lee et al. 1980 et seq.). Consequently, introduced Bowfin pose a potential threat to native fishes and their prey.

References: (click for full references)

Burr, B. M., and M. L. Warren, Jr. 1986. A distributional atlas of Kentucky fishes. Kentucky Nature Preserves Commission Scientific and Technical Series 4. 398 pp.

Denoncourt, R. F., T. B. Robbins, and R. Hesser. 1975a. Recent introductions and reintroductions to the Pennsylvania fish fauna of the Susquehanna River drainage above Conowingo Dam. Proceedings of the Pennsylvania Academy of Science 49:57-58.

Hartel, K. E. 1992. Non-native fishes known from Massachusetts freshwaters. Occasional Reports of the Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University, Fish Department, Cambridge, MA. 2. September. pp. 1-9.

Hendricks, M. L., J. R. Stauffer, Jr., C. H. Hocutt, and C. R. Gilbert. 1979. A preliminary checklist of the fishes of the Youghiogheny River. Chicago Academy of Sciences, Natural History Miscellanea 203:1-15.

Jenkins, R. E., and N. M. Burkhead. 1994. Freshwater fishes of Virginia. American Fisheries Society, Bethesda, MD.

Lee, D. S., C. R. Gilbert, C. H. Hocutt, R. E. Jenkins, D. E. McAllister, and J. R. Stauffer, Jr. 1980 et seq. Atlas of North American freshwater fishes. North Carolina State Museum of Natural History, Raleigh, NC. (Cited as a work rather than as individual accounts in the interest of space).

Menhinick, E. F. 1991. The freshwater fishes of North Carolina. North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission. 227 pp.

Page, L. M., and B. M. Burr. 1991. A field guide to freshwater fishes of North America north of Mexico. The Peterson Field Guide Series, volume 42. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, MA.

Pearson, J. G., and F. P. Ward. 1972. A new record of the bowfin, Amia calva Linnaeus, in the upper Chesapeake Bay. Chesapeake Science 13(4):323-324.

Pflieger, W. L. 1975. The fishes of Missouri. Missouri Department of Conservation, Jefferson City, MO. 343 pp.

Smith, C. L. 1985. The inland fishes of New York state. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Albany, NY. 522 pp.

Stiles, E. W. 1978. Vertebrates of New Jersey. Edmund W. Stiles, Somerset, NJ.

Whitworth, W. R. 1996. Freshwater Fishes of Connecticut. State Geological and Natural History Survey of Connecticut, Bulletin 114.

Other Resources:
Distribution map in Illinois - ILNHS
FishBase Fact Sheet

Author: Pam Fuller

Revision Date: 4/11/2006

Citation Information:
Pam Fuller. 2017. Amia calva. USGS Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database, Gainesville, FL.
https://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/FactSheet.aspx?speciesID=305 Revision Date: 4/11/2006


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Citation information: U.S. Geological Survey. [2017]. Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database. Gainesville, Florida. Accessed [3/30/2017].

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